It’s a common misconception that soil is simply dirt. The kind that gets stuck under your fingernails and leaves unsightly stains on your kid’s clothes. Quality soil is much more than just dirt. It’s organic matter that provides the support your plants need to grow and thrive.

When it’s well-nourished, your garden’s soil will have a living and breathing community of microorganisms that help maintain it’s physical condition. These microorganisms will help capture water, recycle nutrients and ward off nasty pests.

Clues your garden soil needs improvement

There are some obvious clues your garden’s soil needs nourishment, beyond your plants simply not growing. These include:

  • Discolouration of leaves, particularly those sitting low
  • The foliage is turning purple
  • Foliage is looking healthy and lush, but the plants bare no fruit
  • There are puddles of water within the garden
  • The soil is crumbly and dry
  • There is an influx of wild-flowers
  • Your plant’s roots are stunted

Building quality soil in your garden

If you suspect your garden’s soil is lacking in nutrients, not all is lost. There are some easy things you can do to improve its composition and enhance the microorganisms. Here is some general advice to work your way to healthy soil:

1. Plant the right varieties for your soil type

No time to spend on improve your garden’s soil? Planting the right varieties to suit the soil type is vital if you want anything to grow. And if you have no idea what your soil type is, look at what naturally grows in your immediate area. Don’t just peer over your neighbours fence to see what’s in their garden; they may have a greener thumb than you!

2.  Give your soil a good feed

It’s the soil that needs feeding, not necessarily the plants. Laying out organic matter such as blood and bone, manure or kitchen compost is a great way to nourish your soil.  You can even utilise falling leaves and the roots of plants to naturally decay. In between seasons, add concentrated manurers, like sheep manurer, to boost the nutrients and all time for the breakdown of the matter before the plants need to additional nourishment.

3. Avoid overworking your soil

Overworking your soil can disrupt the microorganisms and damage the organic matter’s structure. Gently loosen the soil to improve the air and water flow, but avoid continual digging and turning.

4. Apply mulch to the garden

Just as your skin gets dry overtime without moisturiser, your soil can loose nutrients and water when left bare. Laying down mulch can protect your plants and the soil, especially when the weather is warm. Manure, tree and perennial cuttings, hedge trimmings and leaves can all be used to feed and nourish your soil.

If you have the space, use a vacant garden bed to house mulch so it’s regularly accessible when you’re looking for add nutrients.

So, before you criticise your gardening skills or think you’ve been cursed with a brown thumb, turn to nourishing your garden’s soil! You may be just amazed at the difference quality soil makes.